World Building: Androids, Cyborgs, and Robots

Hello and welcome back to another World Building Sunday after a fairly long break. Apologies for that. I had a couple real world things pop up that sort of laid me low for creativity and writing purposes. Moving and ending and beginning teaching sessions will occasionally do that to you. XD But I’m back and hoping to pick up more or less where I left off. So coming back to world building, I’d like to take a closer look at something I’m working with right now in my current work in progress.

What makes a human real? And can AI ever become too human? Countless movies and books and even games have certainly examined these questions many times over. The eighties were rife with possibilities in the form of Blade Runner, Terminator, Robo-Cop, etc. In more recent history, we’ve seen advances with things like Detroit: Become Human (a game I’m personally biased towards haha), and though I haven’t seen it, I know West World also takes a pretty close look at what it means to be human.

Obviously in fantasy, this isn’t a question that comes up all that much. However, if you’re doing much with science fiction, it might. My latest WIP very much has all of the above present in it and it’s helpful to create distinctions so that one can understand the differences between each. While there sometimes seems to be some overlap, each category does have a specific definition. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

First up: Androids.

Strictly speaking, they are humanoid robots. Android is most often referencing all humanoid robots, however, it is literally the male name for them. If you want to be gender specific, there’s gynoid for females, and if you want to be gender neutral, we have anthrobot. That’s neither here nor there, but they are typically meant to be intelligent or at least appear so. In the case of Star Trek (if we have any Trekkies here), Data is a well known android on the ship who continues to learn as he experiences things. I’m also personally a bit biased towards Bishop in the Aliens movie but that happens to be one of my favorite movies. XD In my stories, I have androids as well as AI and sometimes they are one and the same: an artificially intelligent humanoid robot if you will. Half the cast of my main crew end up being some form of synthetic eventually. lol

Next up: Robots

We have robots aplenty nowadays. These are pretty much any mechanical thing that has been programmed to do a task or function in a certain way that also generally does not look particularly human. You can call androids robots (we have heard the term in various movies – I, Robot anyone?). To be fair, they were only vaguely humanoid in appearance, primarily shape and no effort was made to make them appear lifelike. The term does get bandied about in Detroit: Become Human and Blade Runner too, if I’m not mistaken. If there are any Star Wars fans, R2-D2 and C-3PO would also fall under the robot umbrella, though it’s obvious both are quite intelligent. You might also know robots from the movie Robots or Wall-E. And lately, we’ve been seeing robot dogs and machines that have far more advanced functions than they have in the past. Most of the time, I don’t do much with robots in my works because I like to have creatures and characters that have some degree of sentience at least. This isn’t to say that a robot can’t have intelligence. That’s the beauty of AI and intelligent learning! Looking at the Wikipedia link, there might be far more room to incorporate robots than I originally envisioned in my world. haha

Last but not least: Cyborgs

A portmanteau of cybernetics and organism, this is a category I’m most fascinated in because it is basically a marriage of human and robot together. As I saw somewhere else, and again using a Star Trek reference, Geordi La Forge becomes a Cyborg when he gets robotic eyes, in essence. You’ll also know that the Borg are a prime example of cyborgs. There’s a lot of gray area in regards to what the cutoff point of being a cyborg is or not (a la prosthetic limbs vs pacemakers), but there tends to be a relatively clear consensus that hinges on the fact of whether it’s detachable / removable or not. Consider Bucky Barnes in the Winter Soldier. He very much has a robotic arm, but it’s completely removable at will. He wouldn’t be considered a cyborg by most people. On the other hand, if you look at someone like Robo-Cop or the iconic Major Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, these individuals would be considered cyborgs. They have core components of human matter in them but they are otherwise mostly machine. This is the path I go on in my world too. One of my mains ends up having to replace the majority of his body with synthetic parts. They are not removable in any way and are in fact a part of his connected system, replete with fully functioning pain and touch receptors that can be controlled at will. Additionally, synth humans, another category of people in my world, would be considered as cyborgs for the most part. They voluntarily have replacements made to enhance themselves in some way, shape, or form.

As a bonus, I’d like to take a brief look at AI. We all know it stands for artificial intelligence, a cool concept in and of itself, but the possibilities are almost endless when you consider the ability of something to continue learning practically indefinitely. I use a lot of AI in my world – they’re the controllers of a lot of buildings and the go-betweens when people want to make something happen or speak to someone else that’s in charge. But most of them have no physical body. They’re digital programs with visual aesthetics on screens, but they learn and grow based on who they interact with, additional programming protocols that ‘teach’ them various things, and their own experiences. I really have a lot of fun playing with that concept actually. It becomes even more important later when some of my AI programs have the opportunity to gain physical forms (like androids) and can start moving around beyond the confines of their holographic projectors.

Okay. So I’m going to wrap things up here, but thank you for taking the time to stop by. If you have a favorite movie or book or game that dabbles in any of these realms, I’d love to hear about it. I’m a sucker for anime but I’ve enjoyed all the movies above so there’s that. haha Either way, I hope you have a good day and see you next time!

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